Peculiar Christmas Traditions in Europe

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Christmas is less than a week away! Are you excited? We bet that wherever you are from, you have interesting holiday traditions, and today we would like to share the most peculiar ones from different countries in Europe.

Some of them made us laugh, others made us think about our own traditions and find similarities, but overall we had a lovely time writing this piece, and we hope you will equally enjoy reading it!

1. Lithuania

Want to celebrate the start of the Christmas season in Lithuanian style? Get together with the whole family and watch "Home Alone" [1990], starring Macaulay Culkin! This movie has been the traditional Christmas movie in Lithuania for years.


You don't need to worry about where to watch it, it will 100% be shown on TV! Christmas is not Christmas without this movie, tangerines, snow and a Christmas tree!

Talking about festive customs in Lithuania, people there do not eat meat nor drink alcohol on Christmas Eve. Also, according to the tradition, they have to taste at least twelve different dishes during dinner on Christmas Eve.

Traditional Christmas table in Lithuania includes:

  • Borsch
  • Stewed cabbage
  • Baked fish
  • Cranberry jelly

2. Italy

Kids around the world look forward to the arrival of Santa Claus (usually on the 25th of December) but in Italy, they wait for one more guest to visit the city on the 5th of January, the witch La Befana.


Every year La Befana flies on her magic broom to every house in Italy in search of baby Jesus, and, of course, she brings gifts along the way!

So, it makes Italy one of the few places in the world where witches aren't deemed as scary.

What is La Befana?
It is the witch that flies on her magic broom to every house in Italy in search of baby Jesus, and brings gifts.

3. Portugal

Did you know that in Portugal it is the Three Wise Men and not a big, jolly man in a red suit that comes bearing gifts?


Most children in Portugal write their Christmas letters to baby Jesus asking for gifts rather than to Santa Claus.

The Catholic religion is deeply rooted in the country, thus religious traditions are still very much well-preserved. Another tradition is setting an extra seat by the dining table for relatives who have passed away. It is done during the Christmas Eve dinner called "Consoda".

What is Consoda?
It is an extra seat by the dining table for relatives who have passed away.

4. Norway

Norwegians have some peculiar Christmas traditions, and if you've spent the holidays in Norway, you probably know what we speak of.


One of the most uncommon traditions is "eating a sheep's head." And no, this is not a creative way to call a chocolate cake or a funny name for a Christmas game.

It literally means eating a sheep's head. This dish is actually the main course and is usually prepared and eaten right before Christmas. Would you dare to try?

Crispy Krumkake
Krumkake or crunchy waffle cookies in the form of a cone is also a traditional treat at the Norwegian Christmas table. Make dough from flour, butter, eggs, sugar, and cream. It is usually baked on a special double-sided frying pan, like a waffle iron. Other muffins are often prepared - almond lace cookies, pepperkaker, or gingerbread with pepper.

5. France

If you have a sweet tooth, don't miss the chance to celebrate the Christmas season in Provence, France. One dessert is not nearly enough - people there enjoy thirteen dessert options after the Christmas meal!


These desserts usually include pastries, candied fruit, dried fruit, and nougat, and sharing these deserts symbolizes sharing the joy Christ brings to everyone. So if you have a hard time deciding what to order for dessert, you won't have that problem in France.

6. Russia

When it comes to the East of Europe, you'd be surprised to learn that Russians actually go to work on Christmas (December 25th), and their celebration starts only on New Years Eve.


Besides all the regular aspects of holidays like a variety of amazing traditional dishes, fireworks, and dancing, on Russia exists one special custom they like to do right before midnight..

Russians write down their aspirations for the following year on a tiny piece of paper and start burning it at the last minute before the new year. Once the clock shows 00.00 they pour the ashes into their champagne and drink it, believing that the wishes will come true in the new year.

7. Spain

While vacationing in Spain on Christmas Eve, you can hear the song “Miles euro, miles euro (Mil euro, Mil euro),” which comes from a bar, at home, perhaps even from offices, because, on this day, the National Christmas Lottery takes place! The Spanish Christmas Lottery (Lotería de Navidad) is a state lottery that has been held every year before Christmas since 1812. It is the second oldest permanent lottery globally and the largest in terms of prizes! You can buy the tickets at specialized kiosks and in shops, bakeries, and bars.


Also, you can try your luck in other lotteries. For example, El Niño has been held on January 6 every year since 1941. The main prize of which is 200,000 €. In addition to the above, there are lotteries, the drawing of which takes place weekly: in El Gordo, the minimum amount of the main prize is 5 million euros, and in La Primitiva — 3 million.

Did you know that?
It is important to note that it has become so traditional for the Spanish population that the lottery was played even during the Civil War.

8. Czech Republic

A lot of Christmas traditions revolve around presents and children, however, one of the main ones in the Czech Republic is dedicated to the ladies and foretelling of their future love life.


According to a common superstition, single ladies of the family have to toss their shoes over their shoulder towards the door. If the shoe lands pointing at it, the thrower will get married the upcoming year, if it points the opposite way - unlucky!

As a bonus, all women must receive a kiss under a mistletoe which guarantees love for the next year (not marriage).

Czech nativity scenes
Another notable Czech tradition is the creation of Christmas nativity scenes. They can usually be seen on large squares, in churches, or just at someone's home.

9. Germany

Christmas comes 20 days early in this country with one of the most quintessentially German traditions - the celebration of the Sankt Nikolaus Tag (St. Nicholas Day).


On the night of the 5th of December, children around Germany get super serious about their shoes and start cleaning and polishing them. It is because they are about to receive the most special guest of the year - St. Nicolas (Santa Claus).

Kids leave their shiny shoes outside their door and wake up to find them filled with candy, small gifts, and nuts.

10. Slovakia

To Slovaks, Christmas Eve is an extraordinary day. Like many other European nations, in Slovakia they eat carp as the main dish during dinner, but the preparation time leading up to the dinner is what is peculiar.


After the fish is caught, it is then brought to the family's bathtub, where it lives for the next few days leading to Christmas Eve. The family cannot use the bathroom at that time.

Before or after dinner, children are also told that Jesus is about to bring a Christmas tree, and it takes a special effort for parents to decorate it whilst it is still outside and hide it from their little ones.

Slovac Christmas traditions
Fish scales: during dinner, it is customary to put carp scales under the tablecloth. It should bring prosperity in the coming year.
Garlic: his presence at the festive dinner guaranteed the health of all family members. Aperitif: before dinner, it is customary for the head of the family or the house owner to bring a small drink for the guests, usually strong alcohol.

11. Sweden

In Sweden Christmas has long been considered the most important holiday of the year. In the old days, it was a holiday for the whole family. Ham, pickled herring, jelly, sausage, rice porridge, and lutefisk were served at the Christmas table.

As a rule, Swedes expect a lot from Christmas. Everything should be snow-covered, and the sky should be cloudless and sunny. The whole family should come together and be happy, the gifts should be numerous, the Christmas ham should be juicy and delicious, and the house should be beautiful, cozy, and hospitable.

Few people can compete with the Swedes to create a Christmas atmosphere. Candles, electric garlands, and lamps decorating streets and houses dispel the winter darkness of northern latitudes. Traditional Swedish red wooden houses are picturesquely buried in snow, and fir trees darken on the forest edges. Swedish Santa Claus Yultomten carries gifts, and the Polar Star twinkles in the night sky.


Swedish Santa Claus
According to legend, Swedish Santa is a small old man with a white beard and a hat who watched the yard and the house. He was responsible for everything going well in the yard. He was regarded as the spirit of the first owner of this yard, who, even after death, could not part with him. Tomten also possessed special supernatural abilities. He watched the yard itself and the animals in it. For his work, it was customary to treat him to rice porridge.

12. Iceland

The winter months in Iceland are long and dark, so Icelanders use every opportunity to bring a little light into the twilight. On the first day of Advent, almost every family turns on Christmas lights to decorate windows and trees. As a result, the whole of Iceland in December glows and shimmers with different colors. Most homes will also hang a Christmas wreath and light one candle on each of the four Sundays of Advent. In addition, some will observe a simple ceremony - lighting a candle, singing Christmas songs, eating cookies and clementines, and drinking Malt & Appelsín (Malt and orange).


13. The United Kingdom

Christmas in the United Kingdom is very similar to the American one. Holly wreaths, lights, candles, socks with gifts, and Advent calendars with treats... However, the British have preserved traditions that go back to ancient times. The English have a custom that has been preserved since the time of the Vikings - the burning of a Christmas log. At Christmas, it was necessary to cut down a huge tree, "withstand" it for a whole year, and next Christmas bring it into the house and throw it into the hearth. If it burns to the ground, it means that the year will be successful, and if it goes out, expect trouble. Nowadays, in England, a log is replaced with one thick and large candle - a symbol of the victory of light over darkness.

United Kingdom

The very first postcard
The tradition of exchanging postcards on Christmas day originated in England in 1843, when the first postcard was printed.

14. The Netherlands

The Dutch Christmas is called "Old-New", this name of the holiday came from the ancient traditions of celebrating Yule - the time of the winter solstice, when it was believed that a magical timelessness was coming and the old merging with the new, subjected time to metamorphoses and anything could happen. The animals began to speak humanly, the spirits descended to the ground, and the water turned into wine. "Gifts in basements" is an old tradition when notes are left-hints for which you need to find your gift hidden in the depths of basements.

A tulip, or even better, a bulb of a rare type of tulip is the most traditional gift for Christmas in the Netherlands. Once upon a time, in order to get this amazing plant, the Dutch spent fortunes, so that they even had to issue laws prohibiting buying flowers at very high prices. Now it is customary to present the bulb, so popular in this country of the plant, in a beautiful exquisite mug.


15. Greece

In Greece, not only Christmas trees are decorated for Christmas, but also ships. Greece is a country where the sea and marine industry are revered. The boat symbolizes a happy life filled with joys and bliss. On the streets, squares and in the houses of the Greeks, next to the Christmas trees, there are the most beautiful ships. It is customary to carol at Christmas. Children go home, sing Christmas carols to the accompaniment of metal triangles and get candy and money. They come to all the neighbors, go into every shop. Godparents also give them gifts. The tradition of going to church with godparents at Christmas has been preserved to this day.


Unusual traditions
Gifts in Greece are made peculiarly. Before the celebration, neighbors and relatives present each other with huge wicker baskets. They are filled with bottles of expensive, elite wines, and card decks are placed between them. There is another New Year's tradition. A cobblestone is placed in front of the neighbor's door. Its size and severity depend on what kind of wish is made. If the stone is large, the neighbor will be rich. A small one will lead to the absence of troubles and adversities.

If you want to experience any of these traditions, you can always organize a remake with your family and friends at home, but there is nothing like traveling to another destination for the holidays and diving headfirst into all cultural experiences including the fascinating Christmas and New Year traditions. Just pick a country from the list, and let's chat about your travel plans!